Code Crux: discrimination and vilification

In this edition of Code Crux we’ll take a look at the most considered provision of the AANA Codes and some of its key principles.

The AANA Code of Ethics is the cornerstone of the advertising self-regulatory system in Australia. The category attracting the most complaints relates to discrimination or vilification on the basis of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, sexual preference, religion, disability, mental illness or political belief.

Discrimination or vilification may occur where a negative impression of a group of people is created by the imagery and language used. It’s important to remember the breadth of the provision and think beyond stereotypical discriminatory categories such as discrimination against women, sexual preference or people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

An ad was recently found to be discriminatory on the basis of age. An online ad by a real estate agent had the slogan “don’t let your property be managed by a teenager. Choose experience!”  Advertising which suggests that someone in a professional role is not good at their job because they are young or they look young is discriminatory towards young people as a group. The Ad Standards Community Panel found that the ad was very specific with regards to hiring a teenager. It clearly suggested that a person not be considered for a particular job on account of their chronological age which amounts to discrimination.

Complaints can also relate to discrimination about the elderly, or be based on lifestyle choices such as vegetarianism. It’s also possible to discriminate on the basis of occupation. An ad depicting a male weightlifter as a drug cheat with the name “Cheatalotakov” and described as “pin cushion” and “no stranger to injecting powerful stuff in the back end”. It was was complained about for stereotyping weightlifters in a negative manner.

Two recent advertisements have also been found in breach for discrimination on the basis of hair colour. The Community Panel considers hair colour to be genetic and so can be complained about under the ‘race’ category. For example, a radio ad that made the statement “Why does it take longer to build a blonde snowman than a regular one? You have to hollow out the head”, was found to be discriminatory against women with blonde hair. Although women are not mentioned specifically in the ad, the Community Panel found that blonde jokes are stereotypically at the expense of women.

Humour can lessen the impact of the message but won’t absolve material that is discriminatory or vilifying in the eyes of the Community Panel.

You can find more information about the AANA codes of conduct for advertising along with an overview of advertising regulation here. You can also sign up to the Ad Standards Bulletin here. This monthly bulletin provides updates on recent determinations and is a useful tool for staying up to date with community standards in advertising. You can also follow @AANA_says and @AdStandards on Twitter.